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Feeding

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12/28/01

Feeding babies

You will find as many tables, charts, rations and plans for bottle feeding baby goats as there are "experts". A basic rule of thumb to go by is 10 (to 12) per cent of body weight per day. For example, if the kid weighs 20 pounds, it should have two pounds or 32 ounces per day. Divided by three feedings per day, for example, means that the 20 pound kid will get an 11 ounce bottle three times a day. If you are feeding four times per day you can add a little to the amounts listed below. There is some discussion of the types of milk to feed on our FAQ's page.

Also, during the first couple of weeks you will want to give the bottle four times per day. And for the first four to five days this should be colostrum wherever possbile. Be aware that babies have difficulty absorbing powdered milk replacers for the first 7 - 10 days. People wean at any variety of ages from 4 weeks to 6 months. Kids being raised on powdered milk tend to be weaned earlier than those raised on their mothers. We wean at 14 weeks because we have been weaning at 14 weeks for 30 years. Good arguments can be made for any choice. Some feeding charts are based on age, but that doesn't make allowance for the variety of sizes.

For kids that are being raised on the doe, you obviously don't have to worry about the "charts." But you should still make sure that the kid is getting enough milk. If you think there is a shortage, you can supplement with a bottle or help the kid nurse off one of the other does. Babies should be encouraged to eat grain and leafy alfalfa just as soon as possible (about 10 days).

FEEDING BABY GOATS (NOTE: Rev 3/3/00)
WEIGHT (in lbs) 4 x DA 3 x DA 2 x DA GRAIN
5 3 oz 4 oz 6 oz 1 oz
7 4 oz 6 oz 8 oz 2 oz
10 5 oz 7 oz 10 oz 2 oz
15 7 oz 9 oz 14 oz 2 oz
20 8 oz 11 oz 16 oz 3 oz
25 10 oz 13 oz 20 oz 3 oz
30 12 oz 16 oz 24 oz 4 oz
40 16 oz 21 oz 32 oz 5 oz
50 20 oz 27 oz 40 oz 6 oz

[If you would rather figure it by age: Day 1-2, 4-6 oz 4 x da; Day 3-7, 8-10 oz 3 x da; Weeks 2-6, 16-18 oz 2 x da; Week 6 to weaning (8-14 wk), 20-24 oz 2 x da. However, we do prefer the chart above.]

Creep feeding

Once the kids are 10 days old, they can be taught to eat grain, especially if you stuff it in their mouths at first. It is best to make an area which only the babies (and not the moms) can get into. This is most easily done by cutting a couple of holes in a piece of plywood. The doorways should be 12 inches high and 6 1/2 inches wide. A smooth 2 x 2 can form the sill if you'd like but make sure it can't scrape fresh navels or banded scrotums.

Feeding the Doe
Milking does should be fed a concentrate feed that contains 16% non-urea (natural) protein. When the doe is not in milk or in the last 6 weeks of gestation, she can receive a lower percentage of protein. We have found the commercially prepared 16% feed to be a good feed to give to all the goats year round.

Up until the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, the doe can have just a small amount of grain or none at all. (She should have been dried up at least 60 days before her due date.) We then start feeding a little grain, increasing up to a pound twicea day at delivery. Because there is so much difference in goats and the amount of milk they produce, it is very difficult to give an exact formula for feeding. One general rule of thumb is: 1/3 pound of grain for every pint of milk produced. None of our goats are real heavy milkers and we feed between one and 1½ lbs of grain twice per day. If you raise babies on the doe, you have to estimate the feeding needs. When you "dry her up" (stop milking her or take babies away) you should also stop her grain for a period of time, probably until she is 6 weeks from delivery.

A milking doe also needs a good quality, high protein roughage source such as alfalfa. We mix alfalfa and good grass hay together, feeding about two pounds of hay per head twice a day. Any feed that is not eaten by the next feeding is taken away, so they always have fresh feed before them. We have found that the goats are pretty good judges of how much they should have (so long as it is not all tasty fresh alfalfa, on which they will over indulge). The alfalfa should always be "dairy" grade, never "feeder" alfalfa, a category which can include some pretty disgusting stuff.

Feeding Non-milking does, bucks, wethers and large kids

Does which are not producing milk do not need very much grain. If they are in "good flesh" or over-weight, they can even go without grain for a while. Also, for a couple of weeks after being dried up, they generally are better off without any grain. A token amount can be fed after that, anywhere from 1/4 to one pound of grain per day. During the second half of pregnancy, grain can be gradually increased so that they are receiving one to two pounds per day at the time of delivery.

Wethers have a tendency to put on too much weight quite easily. They would rarely need more than 1/2 pound per day, preferably less. So also with bucks except leading up to and during the breeding season when their energy needs are significantly increased and they may then receive about one to 1 1/2 pound per day, depending on the number of does they area servicing.

We prefer to feed twice per day. Therefore, the above amounts can be divided between two feedings.

Weighing and Measuring Hay and Grain

At first it may seem puzzling when one says, "Feed two pounds of alfalfa, three pounds of grass hay and one pound of grain." How much is that? How do you get hay onto the kitchen scales? An easy way to measure out hay is to weigh the whole bale with your trusty hanging farm scales (get the 200 lb size so you can weigh your does and big hay bales). Then measure the length of the bale. If the bale is 30 inches long and weighs 90 lbs, then one inch weighs about 3 lbs. If you are wanting to feed 6 lbs of hay, all you have to do is grab a slice which is 2 inches thick.

Sooner or later you will come across some huffy old goat raiser who will snort and pucker up her nose and say, "You knew that a 3 pound coffee can doesn't hold three pounds of grain, didn't you?" People like this just seem to delight in taking the fun out of everything. Tell her to visit "goatwisdom" or ask her how many pounds of goat berries she can get in a 3 lb can. Or some other absurdity. Technically, she may be right if weighing out rolled corn or some other "fluffy" feed, but if measuring commercial concentrates with molasses the difference will be so slight that it can be ignored. Where do these people come from?

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